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June 25, 2019

Pakistan eye New Zealand scalp in battle for World Cup survival


Tue, Jun 25, 2019

BIRMINGHAM, England: Buoyant Pakistan will turn their guns on table-toppers New Zealand in a bid to win yet another battle for World Cup survival here at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

On the verge of an embarrassing World Cup exit following back-to-back losses against Australia and India, Pakistan clawed their way back with a vengeance as they hammered South Africa by 49 runs.

The only way they can have any hopes of qualifying for the semis is by winning their remaining three World Cup games.

But can they beat New Zealand, a side that looks in impeccable form with the likes of skipper Kane Williamson, all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme and pacers Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult in full flow?

Pakistan believe they can.

Most of their hopes rest on the shoulders of Mohammad Amir. So far the most lethal bowler in this World Cup, Amir has played a key role in their two wins – against England and South Africa.

The left-arm pacer will once again lead Pakistan’s assault on Wednesday under overcast conditions. With Wahab Riaz also chipping in and Pakistan’s spin trio of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez looking good, they must be fancying their chances against New Zealand.

The Black Caps, however, remain the favourites to win on Wednesday and seal their place in the semi-finals. They enjoy an enviable record in group matches, having won 18 of their last 20 games in the previous four editions of the World Cup. They have an excellent recent record against Pakistan, having won 12 of their last 13 matches.

The biggest gun in New Zealand’s arsenal is their captain, Williamson.

Twice – against West Indies and South Africa – New Zealand were in trouble and on both occasions Williamson rescued them. He has amassed 373 runs at a staggering average of 186.50 in this tournament. Veteran batsman Ross Taylor has also been in sublime form. Together, the duo have contributed 573 runs in this competition. The top two – Martin Guptill and Colin Munro – have just scored 246.

Pakistan should target Guptill, who was the highest scorer at World Cup 2015, as the opener is going through a lean patch with scores of 25, 0, 35 and 0 in his four World Cup innings. Colin Munro also has just 55 runs from his last four outings and should be Pakistan’s prime target with the new ball.

Colin de Grandhomme has been a success story for New Zealand. He averages 53 against Pakistan but has a poor record against Shadab Khan. In the last two games between the two teams, Shadab has scalped him for 0 and 3.

Pakistan, meanwhile, will be hoping that recalled batsman Haris Sohail, who hit a match-winning 89 against South Africa, will continue from where he left at Lord’s. They will need a solid foundation from openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman. Number three Babar Azam has been in fluent form but is yet to score a big one.

Pakistan will be concerned over the form of Mohammad Hafeez, whose only significant World Cup knock has come against England. He scored 84 in that game but his overall tally of 175 is far from impressive.

It rained a lot of Tuesday in Birmingham but showers are unlikely on match day. There, however, will be a cloud cover which should assist the pacers.

New Zealand are to make a change in their line-up in this contest. 

Pakistan, who have time and again tinkered with their eleven, are expected to field the same side which won against the Proteas at Lord’s on Sunday.

Teams (likely):

Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi.

New Zealand: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (capt), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.

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